Alongside the MacBook Airs, the Mac Minis have also received an update. In our opinion, this update is a big step that Apple has made, compared to how the MacBook Air update was over the previous model. This is not only because of the upgrade from Intel Core 2 Duo to Sandy Bridge Core i5/i7 CPU, or the upgrade to Thunderbolt technology, but also the exclusion of a SuperDrive. Because Apple have left out the SuperDrive, how we can’t watch DVDs or import CDs, or even install applications from disks. Well according to Apple, that’s not a problem because now you have the iTunes Store for media, and the Mac App Store for all your apps. What we noticed is that because Apple has discontinued the white MacBooks, now the most affordable notebook is the MacBook Air, and that doesn’t have a SuperDrive. And, the most affordable Mac desktop is the Mac Mini, and it doesn’t have a SuperDrive. However, the pro-lines of Macs, such as the MacBook Pro and the iMac does sport SuperDrives. Meaning that Apple really is trying to push the basic consumers away from these CDs and DVDs that we don’t need anymore. Apple may decide to kill of the SuperDrive from the MacBook Pros and the iMacs, but that didn’t happen this year, and who knows, that might not happen for another 2 years or so. Now let’s take a look at the new features.
As we expected, the new Intel Sandy Bridge Core i Series of CPUs have arrived in the new Mac Minis. Clock speeds range from dual-core 2.3GHz Core i5, configurable up to 2.7GHz Core i7. Apple claims a speed increase of up to 2x faster than the previous model which had the Intel Core 2 Duo at 2.4GHz.
The new Mac Minis also sport the powerful AMD Radeon HD 6630 graphics, which allow performances up to 2x faster. Although we do believe that this is a nice addition, we have to warn everyone that this GPU is not included in the baseline Mac Mini model, as it is only included in the high-end model. The baseline model only sports the Intel HD 3000 graphics. Therefore we would really like you to watch out when purchasing a new Mac Mini. Our advice is to go for the high-end model. This is simply due to this GPU. The AMD graphics are superior over the Intel graphics and will show a noticeable difference in performance speeds.
In replacement of the Mini DisplayPort, we now have a Thunderbolt port, that Apple is pushing, which have data transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s. This is a nice addition, and the great thing is that even though Apple is pushing this Thunderbolt technology, and that this technology pretty much is capable of replacing every other I/O, you still get a HDMI port, FireWire 800 port, 4 USB 2.0 ports gigabit ethernet port and an SD card slot.
The interesting part of the Mac Mini is how configurable it is. The high-end Mac Mini can sport up to 8GB RAM, and you can also replace the stock 500GB 5400rpm hard drive with a 750GB 7200rpm disk. However, it doesn’t stop there. The new Mac Minis now support the ability to configure SSDs of a capacity of 256GB, and it can also support dual-drives of a combination of a 750GB 7200rpm hard drive plus a 256GB SSD. Although this is a pricey option, it will definitely make your Mac Mini very speedy. There is also a Mac Mini Server, and this server includes the Lion Server pre-installed. Hardware specs include a quad-core Sandy Bridge 2.0GHz Core i7 CPU, which is the same as the baseline 15inch MacBook Pro. Storage starts from dual 750GB 7200rpm hard drives, and that can be configurable with all the options that the high-end Mac Mini can, and also an addition of a dual SSD drive with 256GB on each drive.
Overall, we think that the new Mac Minis are a great buy, especially with all the new hardware that has been included. However, we do like you to consider about the SuperDrive before your purchase, as you might actually need this for your CDs and DVDs, if you still use them. However, now we do have the iTunes Store and the Mac App Store, so there is less of a need of the SuperDrive, but it still feels odd for the SuperDrive to be taken out from a desktop machine. Other than that, we need you to be aware that the baseline Mac Mini does NOT include the AMD HD graphics, because it is only present in the high-end models, and the baseline models will only have the Intel HD 3000 graphics.
We have also made a video on our thoughts and opinions regarding the Mac Mini refresh:
About the Author: Kenta Arai is a tech enthusiast who was born in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan. His passion towards technology began to develop as he grew up in Hong Kong, where technology had its solid place in the mass market. Arai became one of the most enthusiastic technophile student in his high-school, and was also well-known for consulting many of his school-mates when purchasing new computers. His expertise in the tech industry is focused onApple Inc. and Google Inc.